Residents of Jerusalem, still reeling from two Palestinian terrorist attacks in six days that killed three Israelis and injured dozens, were anxiously awaiting implementation of a plan proposed this week to increase security in Israel’s capital city.
“The Zionist enterprise cannot survive if Israel becomes the most dangerous place for Jews [to live],” Housing Minister Natan Sharansky ominously told Jewish American leaders here Tuesday.
Although National Security Adviser Uzi Dayan, who authored the security plan with Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy, declined to discuss the proposal publicly, Israeli press reports said it calls for the construction of an 8-mile-long wall along Jerusalem’s border with the West Bank and the erection of other obstacles for about another 40 miles to help encircle the city. They are said to include roadblocks, surveillance cameras, high-tech sensors, and hundreds more border police.
“The plan is aimed at giving better protection and, no less importantly, protecting Israeli interests regarding Jerusalem’s … security isolation from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank],” Dayan said on Israel television.
Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Sharon, said the plan would be submitted shortly to the security cabinet for its approval.
“The full details have not be divulged, except for the principle that there will not be any fences or walls inside Jerusalem,” he said. “We’re not going to erect a Berlin Wall. … The fact is — and it is significant — that so far at least none of the terrorist attacks have been committed by Arabs living in Jerusalem.”
After being briefed on the plan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the security belt around Jerusalem should be expanded to include Jewish West Bank communities such as Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, and Har Gilo, which are outside the capital’s jurisdiction but part of what is known as greater Jerusalem. The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted government sources as saying this move had political significance beyond security purposes.
Sharon reportedly also directed that the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem be treated as a “single whole.” Among the Palestinian communities to be included is Abu Dis, where the Palestinian Authority under its chairman, Yasir Arafat, had planned to locate its parliament building. The action, however, would not change the status of those neighborhoods, which would remain under Palestinian Authority civilian control and Israeli military control.
Dore Gold, another adviser to Sharon, pointed out that Israel’s internal security chief, Uzi Landau, has stressed that as part of the Jerusalem security plan the Israel Defense Forces must be allowed greater freedom to maneuver in the West Bank.
“The defense of Jerusalem is going to involve both the measures being introduced and an active campaign against the terrorist infrastructure that surrounds Jerusalem,” he explained.
Shoval noted that the Arabs of East Jerusalem have been “basically quiet” and that the terrorists who have plagued the city have slipped into East Jerusalem from the West Bank.
That is believed to be what happened in the case of the female suicide bomber who carried out a deadly attack last Sunday that killed an elderly Israeli and wounded about 100 in the heart of Jerusalem. She was identified by Palestinian security sources as a 23-year-old West Bank resident, Wafa Idirs, who was affiliated with the militant Tanzim wing of Arafat’s Fatah movement, Israel Radio reported. It is believed to have been the first time a woman carried out such an attack, prompting Israeli security forces to begin conducting more complete searches of Arab women at checkpoints.
If Fatah was responsible for Sunday’s attack, it would also mark a change in its terrorist tactics because in the past it has preferred shootings to suicide bombings. The gunman who last week opened fire on civilians with an M-16 semi-automatic rifle, for example, was a member of the Fatah-Tanzim’s Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade. He began shooting at almost the same spot at King George Avenue and Jaffa Road that Idirs chose to blow herself up.
Just one day before the suicide attack, Arafat appeared on Palestinian television addressing a group from Hebron. At one point, he called upon them to join him in chanting in Arabic, “With our souls and blood we redeem you, O Palestine.” Moments later, with a smile on his face, he shouted: “Jihad! Jihad! Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!” Jihad is Arabic for holy war.
The two attacks in downtown Jerusalem reduced traffic considerably along Jaffa Road, the city’s main thoroughfare. These attacks came in front of the Sbarro restaurant, the site of an earlier deadly suicide bombing, and only a short distance from the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall, the scene of December’s back-to-back bombings that killed 10 and injured 180.
Combined, they have crippled retail business in the area. Members of a rabbinic mission of the State of Israel Bonds last month were greeted with open arms by storeowners in the pedestrian mall who complained that their businesses were dying.
After Sunday’s attack, Zion Barsheshe, who owns three stores that once employed 60 people at the bottom of the pedestrian mall, said simply: “For many of us, business is no longer profitable. Now I have five people working here. I’ve paid $350,000 out of my own pocket to keep these places afloat since the intifada started [16 months ago]. But now the banks are breathing down my neck, and I’ve had to close one of the places.
“Hell, I don’t even let my own children come down here, so how can I expect tourists to come?”
Mark Sokolow, a tourist from Cedarhurst, L.I., who sustained minor injuries along with other family members in the Sunday bombing, told reporters that Jews should still visit Israel — but just avoid potential terrorist targets.
Yehuda Gilad, the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi in the Galilee, said the kibbutz’s hotel has been accommodating tourists seeking to keep away from terrorists.
The rabbi, who is also chairman of the Meimad political party, said he believes the government is right “when it tries to find physical obstacles and technical solutions” to ward off terrorists. But he said he hopes the government is still “open to coming back to the negotiating table once they finish their terror campaign and they understand that they will not achieve anything by terror. They must develop a more pragmatic and realistic leadership. The world is recognizing that Arafat is not the guy you can make concessions to and who can come to a realistic and pragmatic solution.”
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that “everyone now understands that Yasir Arafat is an impediment to peace. With 100 suicide bombings since September 2000 that have cost many lives, the Israeli government has to respond to defend itself. There’s no doubt about that.”
She added that although Sharon’s three predecessors all worked with Arafat to achieve peace, “it has become abundantly clear for all who have eyes to see that they did not have a partner for peace. … The U.S. has to do all that is possible to support Israel at this time.”
Shoval, the Sharon adviser and former Israeli ambassador to Washington, remarked: “Whatever one believes, we are already approaching the post-Arafat era. This may take some time and it is what the American administration is thinking.”
In remarks to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Sharansky called once again for the development of a Marshal Plan that would give money to the Palestinians in a way that would circumvent Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. He said that even without any new money or money from the Arab world, the West gives $2 billion annually to the Palestinians and that in the future it should be given on the condition that it is used to build the infrastructure and foster business develop and joint ventures with the West.